Seeing Sounds was an art show curated by Jessica Udeh and Anisa McGowan (otherwise known as Jessicunt and Ohlafemi), in collaboration with Codie Monowi. The objective of the event was to bring a cohesive appreciation to live music/performance talent, as well as the visual arts. Seeing Sounds was held on December 9th of 2015, at The Fridge located in SE DC.
Anisa and Jessica are a dynamic duo of curators for the arts in the DMV area. Successful shows such as The Root 2.0, which incorporated all women talent, advocated for the progression of feminism and women artists. Anisa, who is a curator of the Art Hoe Collective, a fine artist, and creative director, is a force to be reckoned with as her movements are quiet, yet carry a heavy impact. Jessica is a seasoned sound selector and event curator, along with being a beast on the 1s and 2s. Her SoundCloud flows with works that incorporate a versatile sound, a catalog that truly exemplifies what it means to have an ear to the streets. Codie Monowi, who I have yet the pleasure of meeting, is a creative director, photographer, and editor. If you looked hard enough, you may have even seen him in the premiere of Yeezy Season 3 at Madison Square Garden. These three creative minds came together to build a show worth remembering. Seeing Sounds.
I arrived at The Fridge about 30 minutes before the event began. There was already a significant crowd gathering outside as the time went by, so I prepared my equipment quickly and began shooting. Capturing the art work before it got too crowded in the small, rectangular shaped venue was the first thing on my mind. I flipped the switch on my T2i and got to work. Works by Merima, Myles Loftin, Carltun, and others were posted along one of the walls and created a truly captivating scene. Each artist had their own distinct style that created an environment of distorted cohesion. Carltun's work was especially unique, as he had a MacBook set up displaying his 3D, moving pictures. I look back to the door and it was as if there was an endless assembly line of hands eagerly handing over the $10 ATD fee. This was the sign of a wild night ahead. Around an hour into the show, an intermission was announced. Performances would begin and artists would switch out with the other artists scheduled to display their works.
First up to perform was Nappy Nappa. A unique character with an undeniable sound, Nappy Nappa is one of the finest in the underground of Washington D.C. A veteran in the DMV rap scene, he’s no stranger to crowd engagement. That engagement left me with a slight feeling of discomfort. Not because his pants fell down in the middle of a song as he rapped aggressively, or because his fans were sweating all over my short 5'10 body, but because I couldn't wrap my head around his entire existence. To me, Nappa is an anomaly. An enigma per say. He's years older than me, yet he reminds me of that younger sibling that may set the house on fire if you look away for two seconds. He emits that sort of energy that makes you alert, but for a good reason. However, that doesn’t take away from his sound. In fact, it only adds to his character. Nappa is a free-flowing, unorthodox being that can only be described as elusive. His music is an embodiment of life in DC, relaying his own personal thoughts and experiences while growing up in the district. His lyrics and flow are impeccable (reminding me of a heavy-hitting Beast Coast rapper such as Nyck Caution), and they leave a lasting impression. His song, "D.C. DAILY NEWS" is where I first became a fan. As far as being/expressing yourself, he's a great role model.
Some time through Nappa's set, a group known as ATOMOS joined him on stage. They turned that place up so fast and so great that I came to an internal conflict: Mosh, or shoot? There wasn't quite a large enough pit for my liking at the time, and I still needed more content for my site, so I ultimately decided to continue shooting. However, once the lights went out, that's when people started to get a small flame in their hearts. Inattentive wall-standers became the main participants throwing up their hands and head-banging to the music. I noticed that even more people got on the stage, and that at this point it was more than 11 on a tiny 8ft x 10ft platform. I envisioned the kinds of shots I could manage if I slithered my way onto the stage, and I made it my mission to get up there. Once I positioned myself behind the crowd, I started snapping away. With every jump it felt like the wooden platform would collapse, and I immediately began to regret my decision. Thankfully nothing broke, and I was still able to get decent video and stills. One of those stills can be viewed below, edited by Kel of course. The energy on that stage was captivating. It was if rage, excitement, and euphoria were all being transmuted among one another all at once. The crowd was so dense that I chipped my lens. This set was a shift in the paradigm for the entire event, foreshadowing for the night ahead. After the opening set, the next artist was up during the intermission. Matt McGhee.
Matt McGhee. A Maryland native, rapper, and member of GRAMFAM, is someone to look out for. His hit track "Flipmode" which has now struck 100k+ plays on SoundCloud, got him attention from many, many places. He can do it all, from rap to R&B, he has a song for all your moods. Having being posted by HYPETRAK and MassAppeal, it's only a matter of time until McGhee has a following close to that of someone in the Top 100. McGhee dates Jessica, and he was even looking for her between songs. During the short pauses, an announcement was made by the owner of the venue. A husky red cheeked man you wouldn't expect to be running the place, had this to say: "There's underage drinking and smoking going on outside, and I'm not about to be arrested for it". My heart sank and the crowd became a little restless. Matt quickly grabbed their attention and asked whether he should perform his hit Flipmode, or if we wanted to hear some new, unreleased music. The majority voted for Flipmode. rMell, who was in control of the sounds at the time, played the track. The performance was clean with no mistakes, hesitations, or cutbacks. However, after the performance, everyone's worst fears had been realized. Anisa shushed the crowd and made the announcement that everyone had to leave. Apparently the smoking and drinking never came to an end, and the owner had to close the show early. A wave of 20-somethings immediately washed passed me as I tried to make my own way out. Sadly, artists such as Gradeint and Saadiq Tafari were unable to display their works because of the unexpected ending.
This brought an end to my night. I headed to the Eastern Market station and made my trip back home. Sweaty, exhausted, and heart still jumping, I swiped my Smartrip card and waited on the cold bench for about 20 minutes until the last train to New Carrolton finally arrived. On the train home I realized that there probably wouldn't be another show like Seeing Sounds at The Fridge for a while, at least not one as big with the same amount of quality. Overall, I got some amazing shots. Other photographers there like FRNVR did as well. If there was some kind of rating system for art shows, Seeing Sounds would've been a strong 8/10, in my own opinion. To see more about the event and its coordinators, visit uwantjessxfemi.com and codiemonowi.com